Monday, June 28, 2010

Hey Teens, We Want You

Our seniors are so excited about inviting teens into our project, and collaborating with them to plan and host Seniors’ Storytelling Day in November.

How can I tell? Henrietta, as you see above, has been making adorable fliers about youth outreach. Beatrice and Brenda, as you see below, wrote essays about the importance of giving “good kids” the opportunity to shine, in a world where teens’ misbehaviors are often sensationalized. Arthur said he envisions standing on stage on SSDay with young adults, and, in unison, telling the audience: “Look at us now.”

True mentorship – and friendship – takes time to develop. And so, guided by the seniors’ vision of sharing their day and their stage with younger generations, our volunteer team has been speaking with selected teen organizations throughout Philadelphia, in order to handpick the most self-motivated teens in the city as our summer and fall interns.

If you’re a teen and want to apply, simply write a letter by July 9 to the seniors about a particular story on the blog that has moved YOU. You don't have to be a great writer. Just be yourself and speak your mind. Submit the letter via email to our PR Manager Emily at Or, if you’re feeling bold, post it right on our Facebook wall! Can’t wait to hear from you!

Beatrice Newkirk
June 11, 2010
Generations of today

The generations of today are the future of tomorrow.  What happens today will affect them tomorrow.  It will be different if not worse.

So many things will be changed.  People have to work together in order to get things done.  They have to agree on things that concern them.  What decisions we make today will be a help to the generations tomorrow.  There are a lot of kids doing the right things.  We need to tell about them.  What they are doing and how they are making it.

Beatrice Newkirk
June 17, 2010
What About the Good Kids?

What about the good kids? Don’t they count? So many kids are doing the right thing. Finishing school. Working hard. Going to college. I have so many of my kids and grandkids working the right jobs.

All you see on T.V. is what the bad kids are doing. There are so many kids wanting to do the right thing. Lots of kids are helping people and doing things for people. There are so many happy kids. There’s a show on the T.V. just about kids. I look at it. It shows us what the kids are doing.

I have lots of grandkids graduating and a great grandkid finishing school.

Brenda Bailey
May 27, 2010
A Happy Day in my Life

There is a program in Georgia called “The Partners-in-Education,” where a business and a school join forces to help each other with projects.  When the business needs volunteers for quarterly mailings, or guides during open house, they use the students from the school.  When the school needed prizes or supplies, they ask the business.

Everyday, we are bombarded by reports from TV, newspapers, neighbors, family, and even ourselves about how young people are so lazy, disrespectful, unmotivated, etc., etc., etc.  But we don’t hear much about all the wonderful young people struggling to just make a positive and prosperous future for themselves.  Young people attending school, working, volunteering, and making a conscious effort to stay out of trouble.

I was privileged to be asked to judge an Art Contest at the area school, which consisted of elementary, middle, and high school students.  I am not in any way an art critic, so when I arrived at the school, I was nervous about what I would see and do.  And what I saw blew me away.

There were tables from wall to wall of the gym filled with completed projects of the students.  One table had an exact replica of the Titanic with the smoke stacks, anchor, lettering, and gangplank.  Another table had the Mona Lisa painted just like the one in the Louvre.  There was a model of the White House, a farm with all the animals in clay, paintings of landscapes, towns, and one student had painted a picture using just dots.

Again, I was blown away!  To me, everyone was a first place winner.  I requested that the projects be displayed on my job, and the employees were as impressed as I was.

So, our young people just need a chance to show what they can do, and a place to do it, and people that will encourage them.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Are you wondering what my grandma’s and the seniors’ reactions to the article were? I know I was!

Well, my grandma, whom I call “Po Po” in Cantonese, is a giggler. So literally, that’s what happened on the phone on Tuesday morning. We giggled for a while about it. And she said what she had said to me on the night of our first call (which incidentally was June 26, 2006. Today, 4 years ago!) and what she once in a while repeats:

You are silly for finding me special!

Don’t you just love that? And then she said the seniors in my class (whom I tell her about regularly on the phone) are gonna get a kick out of this. And of course Po Po was right.

I walked into the senior center on Thursday, and was greeted by a giant posterboard of the newspaper article, which the COO, Vicky, had set up. Vicky – who I must add has been  a fearless supporter of this project from day one, back when it was still a 6-week experiment – also made xeroxes of the physical paper so the seniors could each get a copy. Needless to say, the seniors went wild. I read the article out loud for them. We posed for photos with the xeroxes and by the board. Hattie called Bernice Teacher’s Pet because there is the big picture of Bernice and me laughing (I don’t remember what I was laughing about. Bernice is constantly telling me jokes.) We all described the visual layout of the page to Mr. Gordon, because he can’t see. Brenda stared at her handwriting on the front page on the paper for an entire minute, in disbelief, the this-is-too-incredible-to-be-true kind.

(Check out Facebook to more class photos!)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

We're in the Philadelphia Inquirer!

Check out today’s Philadelphia Inquirer… we’re in it!
Click Here for the Article

I wish I could articulate how honored I feel at this moment, but I am still processing my feelings – I am just so happy. (Thank you Dianna for your kind words.) It’s still 5:45 am Seattle time… just can’t wait to call my grandma in a few more hours, and get to class this Thursday and show the seniors the newspaper.

And readers … I have something to admit, yes, the seniors, volunteers and I knew about this in advance. But we wanted to be tight-lipped about it to keep this a surprise for you! Thank you for reading.

And new readers who are seeing this blog for the first time – thanks for checking us out, and hop on board. It’s been a fun ride, and it’s just begun.

The Best Day of My Life (So Far): Seniors telling stories
by Dianna Marder, Philadelphia Inquirer
June 22, 2010

When I was small, I had to serve two mothers . . .

With these bewildering words, 85-year-old Mei Chiu spoke for the first time to Benita Cooper, her granddaughter, about growing up in 1930s Hong Kong.
Cooper listened, aghast. A Harvard-educated architect, she had just moved to Philadelphia with her husband. She hadn't called home to Seattle in a while, she was homesick, and, wanting a conversation that was more than a status report, she says, "I asked my grandmother to tell me about her experiences growing up."

When I was a baby, about the time I was just learning to walk, a widow woman befriended my mother, Chiu told her in Cantonese. At first the widow saw my mother in the market and approached her, saying nice things about her lovely baby girl. Then she joked about wanting to take the beautiful child.
More and more the widow imposed her unwanted attention, until one day, the widow took me from my mother's arms and announced that from then on she would be my mother.

How could this have happened? What strange power did this widow have over the child's natural mother? Questions flooded Cooper's mind. She asked how her own aunts and uncles had reacted when Chiu told them her story.

Her grandmother's response was even more stunning, Cooper said.

"No one knows any of this," Chiu said. "No one knows because no one asks."

Why had no one ever asked? Hers was an extraordinary life - born in a tiny village in China, moved to Hong Kong when it was a budding British colony, survived a world war, raised 11 children, then immigrated to Seattle. How many other older men and women had similarly great untold histories?

"I realized it was my responsibility to record her stories. Somehow. No matter how imperfectly."

"And as my telephone friendship with my grandma deepened, I became more aware of the seniors around me," says Cooper, now 29. "As I passed others in their 'golden years' in grocery stores, on buses, or just on the sidewalk, I began to wonder what stories they had to tell."

Thus began The Best Day of My Life (So Far), a multimedia storytelling and writing project at the Philadelphia Senior Center on South Broad Street.

Cooper, who has her own design business, started the program there as a six-week experiment in September 2009. By popular demand, it has become ongoing.

She set up a Facebook page with photos and stories so participants' children and grandchildren could comment (

"Our first session was Sept. 24, and by October the seniors started calling our class 'Party Time,' " Cooper wrote in the blog, referring to the group as "this marvelous cocoon of eager storytellers."

"One table. One hour. One week. Pen. Paper. That's all it took," she wrote. "But what has emerged is something more complex and beautiful than I ever imagined possible. Just as the sense of trust around the table continues to deepen every week, our physical and digital community continues to broaden."

Via Facebook, Best Day drew national, then international attention. Strangers read about it and volunteered to type the seniors' handwritten stories so Cooper could scan and post them. An acquaintance from her childhood in Hong Kong asked Cooper's permission to start a satellite program there.

In late May, Cooper won a $2,500 Leeway Foundation grant to organize a Philadelphia Seniors Storytelling Day in November. The date has not been set, but Cooper envisions an event at a public venue "where teens and seniors will get up on stage together to tell the seniors' stories to a physical audience."

During the months before, the teens and seniors will collaborate closely, she says, and the teens will document the process in writing and video, so that this event is about not only one day of stories but also half a year of the teens' and seniors' personal transformations.

Initially, Best Day participants, who range in age from early 60s to late 80s, were curious about Cooper, too. Who was she and why was she so interested in them?

She was 12 when her family moved to Seattle. And she was smart, starting the University of Washington at 15. She met her husband, Jason, there and he moved with her to Harvard, then Philadelphia. They picked the city on a whim, after reading articles about Philadelphia as New York's "sixth borough."

"We wanted to be open to new possibilities," Cooper says. "And we found Philadelphia to be much more open to outsiders than Boston."

Jason Cooper, also an architect, started, a way for men and women to form teams and leagues to play all sorts of recreational sports. Benita, lithe and energetic, loves team sports and joins any league that will have her.

Now Best Day participants have come to adore her.

"It has been amazing how she throws out a subject to us and we start to put down on paper a storehouse of memories," Hattie Lee Ellerbe, 77, wrote one week. "We get a chance to share with a small group of very interesting people things that have been locked in our memory boxes for many years."

Cooper is also writing a book about her grandmother, their relationship, and the little miracle it spawned. She's been able to piece together much, but not all, of Chiu's story.

When Mei Chiu's mother returned home that day without her baby daughter, her husband was furious. His sister, Mei Chiu's aunt, began to negotiate with the widow for the baby's safe return. But that took years, and by the time Mei Chiu returned to her biological home, her parents had passed away. Only her sister and brother were there to tell her all that had happened.

From what Cooper has learned, she knows Chiu was not harmed or treated as a servant, but neither was she loved.

"She was taken because she was pretty, but basically she was treated like an accessory," Cooper says, "like a piece of furniture."

When she speaks of the past, Chiu refers to her biological mother, whom she never really knew, as "My mother, the real one."

"Little things like that, like her word choice, touch me so much," Cooper says.

Cooper says her grandmother's story is about ethics and human nature, which are universal concerns.
"I've stopped worrying if parts of her life are missing between stories. What she has chosen to tell me are the episodes of the life that matter to her, the moments that contain her emotions, values and dreams. Whether they are exaggerated on purpose or by accident, they are her version of the truth, which is more real than fact itself."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mo and Loretta (Off to the Farm)

Alright – the sun is gorgeous here in Philly today, and I am feeling outdoorsy. How about we head out to the farm? You know what I mean: vicariously, through the seniors’ stories!  In hearing Mo and Loretta’s childhood stories, you know what I realized? A farm is never just a farm; a place is never just a place, but a frame with which to remember experiences and people. Ultimately, talking about the farm is just a way for Mo to remember his dad and grandfather, and a way for Loretta to remember her grandpa. Happy Father’s Day!

Mo McCooper
May 6, 2010
Pheasant and Rabbit

In Ireland my Grandfather was born in Tyrone County, where all boys learned to fish and hunt while following “the dogs” to surprise the prey. Among my fond memories my Dad is explaining to me the special talent of Pointers, Setters, Retrievers, and Springers who lived in kennels behind our family bar.

With a child’s bow and arrow I’d walk way behind the men who would be reaching to fire their rifles at growling pheasants or wild rabbits or squirrels startled of by hiding the “BIRD DOGS”. This was very serious business. Usually 3 or 4 cars or pickup trucks took dogs and men a few hours west from Philadelphia to Chester County where the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers would allow us to hunt on their land. Sometimes they would invite us in for lunch which was always more food than I ever saw at a dinner table anywhere else, plus dessert including pumpkin or rhubarb pie and ice cream.

I love those people. In writing this I realize that no other kids were ever with us. I never realized how incredibly lucky I was. Later a sixteen year old boy came along but that’s a story for another day.

Loretta Gaither

June 10, 2010
Remembering Grandpa

I remember when I went to my grandpa’s farm at twelve years old, and tried to help him pick tobacco. I picked it the wrong way, only picked the top, without the stem, and my grandpa could not sell it. I felt terrible, but Grandpa said it wasn’t my fault.

I liked to go down South. There was a smokehouse and an outhouse. The smokehouse had meat and ham. The food was better down South. Breakfast was a whole meal: gravy, homemade grits, and biscuits, and I said, “All this food, you call this breakfast?”

My grandpa died when he was 95 years old.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hattie, Helen and Bernice (Our Parents and Grandparents)

Life is short; stories are permanent. The stories that stretch my imagination the most are the ones where the seniors reach backwards to talk about their parents and grandparents, the ones that cross over four or five generations. Here are Hattie, Helen and Bernice sharing about the men and women who raised them. And in this way, stories can turn our lifetimes from one-man sprints into a team sport. Life becomes, in a good way, long.

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
May 27, 2010

This letter is to my paternal grandmother.
My father was her only child.

Dear Grandma,

Did I ever tell you that I love you?

I remember as a child, you always lived in the same house with us and shared in our well being. You made our clothes and clothes for our dolls. We loved to visit you on the third floor and go through all your treasures.

Although, Mamma and Daddy were Baptist, we loved to go to Mother Bethel AME Church with you. You would love to know that I am still a member there. You instilled the love of God in us and wanted us to be nice, clean, smart, and good little girls and later young ladies.

When Momma died at age 28 (due to child birth), you stepped right in and took over the parenting of the five of us, ages new born to nine years old. I loved you so much then, but I don’t remember saying so.

However, many years later when I was 41 years old (1974) as I was saying goodnight to you, I kissed you and said I love you and you looked up at me and smiled and breathed your last breath in my arms.

Helen H. Lahr
May 27, 2010
One of the Things I’m Most Proud of in My Life

I say one of the things of which I am most proud because there are many things in life that I am proud of. I will write about number one.

My sister and I were very blessed to have a mother and father like our parents. We couldn’t of had better parents. Diane and I were surrounded by love. Our dad was a construction worker who always provided for our family. He never let our mother go to work and she took good care of us. In those days there were no electric refrigerators or washing machines. During our very early years I can remember my mother washing clothes on a washboard and heating the iron on a stove with wood. She went to the butchers on South Street every other day. Every day she made hot biscuits for us. I can also remember how she made starch for our dresses and our dads shirts and also the borders of our pillow cases and sheets. In order to press these articles they had to the sprinkles and folded and put in a special laundry basin. She wanted her family to look nice. Our mother never left us with anyone- she took care of her “girls” herself. When daddy was home he liked to watch us play with our friends from the neighborhood while he sat back and smoked his pipe. There wasn’t a morning before work that he didn’t come into our bedroom to “look in on the girls” as he put it.

His pet name for our mother was “doll baby”. They had grown up in the same small country town, they were married at the ages of 15 and 17 and were inseparable.

So you can see what beautiful parents Diane and I were blessed to have. They shaped the manner in which I raised my children.

Bernice Moore
Thursday, May 27, 2010
A Woman Who Cared About Children

My foster mother was a person who cared for children. They would send the child who was worst off. Some were ill and disabled, but she would take the time to love them. I would help her all the time. They would send children that nobody wanted. There were some who could not walk or talk, and she would take the time to help them. I was sent there to help her.  There was a boy who they said would never walk, but in time she had him walking. There were a lot of unwanted children. She was a good foster mother. All the children that were sent to her in the bad shape, when they left they would be walking and talking.

My foster mother died in 1950. At the time, I was married and my husband was in the army. I miss her so much. She taught me a lot of things to do in my lifetime. I will never forget her.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Mo, Bernice and Beatrice (Memorial Day Tributes)

War is a sticky subject. The imageries of it in movies and the news overwhelm me. So, I find it both odd and beautiful that when the seniors talk about the war, what they remember are the everyday moments. Their war stories are delicate ones. In honor of Memorial Day a few weeks ago, here are Mo’s tribute to Uncle Tom, and Bernice and Beatrice’s tributes to their husbands.

Mo McCooper
June 3, 2010
Uncle Tom

After Pearl Harbor in 1941, Tom entered the U.S. Navy and reported to the Great Lakes training camp in or near Chicago, Illinois from there he sent us postcards. He then joined the U.S. converse a destroyer on the Pacific battle bone. More about Uncle Tom will be written later but since Memorial Day was celebrated last weekend I wanted to write this in memoriam and thank him for his service to our country.

When my mother met my father she was raising two little sisters and a little brother. Their parents had died a few years prior to their meeting. After my grandfather’s death my mother also took over the town’s taxicab business, which included a garage and a few cars. My grandmother had died a year earlier. When my father who had been born in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia became the baggage man at the town railroad station, he sometimes placed luggages in the trunks of the taxicabs. When they married, my Aunt Mary was still in high school, Uncle Tommy was entering high school and Aunt Nancy was in grade school. Jefferson hospital was my place of birth. Home included Uncle Tommy and Aunt Nancy.

Bernice Moore
May 13, 2010
The Happy Days of My Life: My Husband       

My husband went in the army in 1952.  He was sent to Fort Benny, Ga.  Columbia, Ga. is nine miles from Fort Benny.  I could not get used to the sign that said Black or White.  I met a lot of nice people.  I got lost going to find a store.  A nice white lady helped me.  We became best friends.  Whenever she went shopping, she took me to the store with her.  A lot of her friend did not like it.  But she did not care what they wanted.  Her son was in the army, too.  The weather was very hot.  The bus fare was 25 cents going and coming.  We lived near the woods.  You could hear some animals howling.  There was an alligator in the swamp.  I would not go nowhere near there.  One day a little colored girl got lost.  They found her the next day.  Her and a playmate got lost.  Everybody was worried.  I was glad that they found them. I had a lot of fun.  I and my husband came back here in 1957.  He came out of the army in 1959.  My husband died on January 1, 1993.

Beatrice Newkirk
April 15, 2010
Home Away from Home

When my husband was away from home, I missed him very much. When he went away for the first three moths, I thought three months was a long time. But the best time was when he returned home. Going to the movies and eating out at the restaurant was my favorite thing. Dressed in his uniform, he looked good. I always remember all the good times we had.

My sons, six of them, and a daughter went into the service. I had two sons in the Navy, and four sons in the Army. One daughter went into the Army. My husband went into the Marines. None of my sons wanted to go into the Marines. Every one is out of the service except one son. His name is Terry, and he is still in the Army.

Two of my sons were in Desert Storm. I am glad that I did not lose any of them.

Now I have two grandsons who want to go into the service. I do not tell them not to go. It is up to them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Brenda and Elyse (The Start of a Conversation)

So  excited to load up this blog post in time for class today. Can’t wait to show Brenda. Last week, she wrote a letter to get to know our volunteer team. Elyse not only typed up Brenda’s writing, but also wrote the nicest letter back, which I received via email and am now sharing here online, so that Brenda can read it on the computer screen in class today. To me, this is amazing - a communication loop going from classroom, to email, to blog, back to classroom. And I’ve got a feeling this is just the start of an ongoing conversation.

Dear Volunteers,
How many are you? How did you hear about us? But however you did, Thank you! We have been inspired by hearing other seniors tell their life experiences and we felt we had something to say too. I’m sure you have a story to tell about your lives, and careers too.

- Brenda Bailey, June 3, 2010

Dear Brenda,
Thank you for your lovely note; it has truly been a pleasure reading the stories from the seniors in the class. I actually attended one of the classes last month and enjoyed the energy and laughter in the room.  I heard about the class through my roommate who was a volunteer for the senior center a couple years ago. I then was put in touch with Benita, who has such a wonderful spirit for the work she does. My background is in theatre performance and communications, which I received a BA in at Elizabethtown College in May 2009. I am currently an AmeriCorps VISTA with Project SHINE at Temple University Intergenerational Center. Project SHINE serves elderly immigrants and refugees through English, citizenship, and health literacy classes. In the fall I will be attending Temple to get my masters in clinical social work. I will be spending three days out of the week at Albert Einstein Outpatient Behavior Health. I have a strong interest in therapy. I am pleased to continue typing your stories because it sounds like a therapeutic experience for the seniors in the class. Everyone has a story to share and I am pleased to hear yours every week.  I plan on visiting the class again and some point this summer.

-Peace and best wishes, Elyse Venturella, June 7, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kao (We Once Had Wings)

Thank you, readers, for your Facebook comments and emails. I’ve been hearing from more of you recently, and it means so much to hear your feedback. I am especially moved when our seniors’ stories trigger stories of your own. A couple weeks ago, Kao emailed me a poem that she has generously allowed me to share. In her email, she said:

“I just wanted to share a poem I wrote that was inspired by my grandmothers. They both were extraordinary women who loved their children and community fiercely. I wish I could love like them.”
Kao Kue
Via Email, May 26, 2010
We Once Had Wings

Grandmother said

We once had wings

The First Beings were immortals, relatives of the Gods.
They lived on the clouds in the Sky;
Spoke the same language, one language;
Shared the same mother.
They worshipped no one, but loved everything created by Mother.
Mother’s hands stretched from the Heavens to Earth.
Like their cousins, the Phoenix and the Dragon,
the First Beings had strong wings.
They could fly between the Living and Spirit Worlds,
And they were entrusted by Mother to care
for all creatures and spirits.

However, peace would not last. The Evil Spirits were jealous.
For thousands of years, Evil crept in caves and waited its turn.
The Evil Spirits yearned to ravage the world.

While Mother took a pilgrimage to the Land of the Spirits,
The Evils incited a war between the Gods and the First Beings.
Blinded by ambition, the First Beings were defeated.
They were taken captive;
Their wings were clipped;
Scattered across the land;
They were forced to speak different languages and
Became slaves to the Gods.

Mother’s journey was long and in her absence,
her children suffered.
Many tried to return home, but
Without their wings, they fell to their deaths.
Gradually, those who survived learned the ways of dust.
They became land people obsessed with consuming Earth. 

When Mother returned, her children had forgotten her.
She tried to convince them of how life was before.
No one would listen to an old, dying woman.
Finally, she knew it was time to rest.
She asked the Gods to grant her one last wish.

I wish to become a dragoness, the rain keeper, to replenish life.

The Gods were moved by Mother’s compassion and
Established her as a lesser goddess.
In this way, she continues to nurture her children.
With each drop of rain, Mother reminds us:

One day my love, you will remember yourselves.
On that day your wings will grow back and you will return to me.
Grandmother said

There is no ending. We once had wings.
We will grow them back again.
There is only the time of remembering.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Arthur (Singing)

My volunteers will be the first to tell you, my mind runs a million miles per minute. Way too fast for my own good. So here I’ve been, freaking out to my volunteers via email the past two weeks, already trying to figure out every possible detail of how to pull off a whole Seniors Storytelling Day. And then, guess what, I went to class on Thursday, and Arthur (one of our seniors) basically cleared the sky up for me, and scripted our entire gameplan. I was blown away. He had a vision of Seniors Storytelling Day, and he described what it would take to get there. I was just nodding the entire time, with goosebumps.

"Funny stories, suspenseful stories, sensitive stories, we got them all!"

"It goes on and on!"

"Mixing individual energies."

"From the end to the beginning. Then and now."

"Look at Us Now! We tell the audience, ‘Look at Us Now!’”

“Standing together, young and old, on the same stage."

…just some of the things that Arthur said that are still echoing in my head. Arthur has sung professionally all his life. That's why he's got all this talent about how to put together a good show. I realized I wasn't even thinking about putting on a good show. I was so obsessed with the logistics, the practicalities. He is totally on point.

I just wanted to share that little tidbit with you. What I’m trying to say is, I’m getting the best education by being a part of this project. Inspiration, I think, is the best ever education. Below is a story Arthur wrote the first time he came to class. And yes, his hope has come true since. He has been coming to class regularly.

(BTW – you want to hear where Arthur and I first met? You guessed it, at the piano. Check out the Dec 31, 2009 post: “Come, I Love You So Truuuuu-ue” in the Blog Archive.)

Arthur Murray
March 25, 2010

The best thing that happened to me was when I started singing with a group called “Little Joe and The Thrillers.”    We toured through the states; Atlanta, Georgia for a month in 1958 and a second time in 1979 with McFadden and Whitehead singing group. When I went into the service (army) I got with a group called “The Soul Brothers of Germany, London, France, Copenhagen, and Denmark in 1964.

When I came here to the Philadelphia Senior Center 5 years ago I joined the senior choir and met some very exiting people. Also, I moved into Casa Farnesa Apartments; I love meeting new people.

My dream finally came true because I now sing with three choirs, one here at the center since three and a half years ago.

And now joining this writing group; what an amazing bunch of people. This thought will go with me whenever I leave this earth. This is another milestone for me, I hope to keep coming in the future.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Faces Behind the Stories

Click though our class' photo album on Facebook if you haven't yet, to see the faces behind the stories!

Beatrice (Things I Want My Grandkids to Know)

Well, as Mr. Gordon said, meal times to families aren’t what they used to be. And hey, that’s precisely why we’re gathered here. For whatever reason, it’s harder to find the time to talk these days. Social protocols are different. Some people say the internet is a distraction from meaningful communication. So let’s spin that around. (The internet gives us lemons; alright then, let’s set up a lemonade stand.) Let’s start the talking right here, right now.

Beatrice Newkirk
May 27, 2010
Things I Want My Grandkids to Know       

The things I want my grandkids to know:  How I raised them and how I was raised.  Things I did in my time of growing up.  Things were not easy.  Some people were going through hard times.  In my early years, we had no television.  We did the best we could in my days.  Raising twelve kids was not too easy.  Trying to decide what to feed them and how to dress them.  Me and their father trying to make ends meet.  In my coming up, we had no choice of what we wanted to eat or what we wanted to wear.  I have no complaints about them.  They have made me very proud.  All have finished school.  Everyone doing the right thing.  I thank God for my kids and grandkids and for my great-grands.
57 grands – 27 greats!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mr. Gordon (Life)

From beginning to end, this story is a thing of wonder. Who says a few everyday moments can’t explain the immensity of life?

After Mr. Gordon told this story out loud in class, the other seniors and I asked him what the title was.

He said, simply: “Life.”

“Life?” We asked. No one else had come up with something so bold before.

“Life,” he confirmed. Just like that. And I thought, That’s what real courage sounds like. That was the first time Mr. Gordon came to class, and already, at that instant, he got my total respect.

Arline Gordon

I’d like to talk about life because life is so interesting. I grew up in a family of 11 children. I was raised by my mother, father, and grandfather. One thing that was interesting about Grandpa was that he always checked our homework. He’d say, “This is right, this is not right.” It wasn’t till he has passed and we were talking years later that somebody said, “Grandpa couldn’t read”. And I said “What? Say that again?” But you know, it didn’t matter that he couldn’t read. He was always able to make us do our homework.

I grew up in a fun-loving and caring family. I enjoyed meal times because we talked with one another. We didn’t have a lot of money but we had love. And that’s something I’d like to see come back to the American family.